AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Are investigators ‘too close to something’ in DeKalb County?

DeKalb County's acting leader said he and his administration had nothing to hide, and he would prove it.

With crimes and scandals piling up around him, interim CEO Lee May announced a plan to hunt down corruption and hand over any rogues to the proper authorities. And he had just the man for the job: former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers, who with investigator Richard Hyde had tracked criminal misdeeds in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal.

May pledged not to get in the way, and said Bowers and his team could look into other elected officials if they chose to participate.

"He’s taking a big risk with me and Richard," Bowers said at the time, "because we are sort of like rolling cannons on the deck of a ship, and everybody knows that."

Four and-a-half months later, and that unfettered investigation seems to be blowing up in May's face. Bowers and his team have been putting heat on top leaders who are none too pleased, aiming to shut the probe down. May even apologized to one high-ranking official who received a request for spending records, assuring him he would tell the investigators to back off.

On Sunday, an in-depth report by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed how investigators have faced resistance and hostility and have been undermined by top officials, some of whom have fallen under scrutiny themselves.

You can read Sunday’s report here.

“What did he think was going to happen when he said, ‘Investigate us from top to bottom?’” Commissioner Nancy Jester said of May last week. “I think the investigation is too close to something, something that he’s uncomfortable with.”

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About the Author

Johnny Edwards is a member of the AJC’s investigative team, focusing on the private sector and state and federal regulation. He has worked at the newspaper since 2010.